It's the eternal dilemma for any boss: How do you find the time to get more stuff done?

Now a recent study from McKinsey Quarterly offers an answer.

McKinsey asked nearly 1,500 managers around the globe how they spend their time and how satisfied they are with their current time management skills. A mere 9% are happy with how they spend their time at work; nearly one-third admitted to being "actively disatisfied."

The key to good time management, it seems, is balance. Satisfied managers tend to split their time evenly between activities like making operational decisions, managing and motivating people in their organizations, setting direction and strategy for their companies, managing short-term or unexpected issues, and dealing with external stakeholders.

Less proportional are their means of communication--38% of their time goes to face-to-face interaction, while 28% to asynchronous forms of communication like email or messaging. Working methods matter, too. Satisfied executives claim to spend 24% of their time working alone, 17% working with clients and customers, 15% with employees who report directly to them, and 12% or less working with other employees, in groups, or with external stakeholders.

So how do these numbers translate to a good time management model?

According to Aaron De Smet, a principal at McKinsey Quarterly, of the majority of executives who are dissatisfied with how they spend their time, there are four distinct patterns: the Online Junkie, the Schmoozer, the Cheerleader, and the Firefighter, which are further detailed in a slideshow accompanying the study. Each of these personalities has a different vice, but all share a distinct lack of balance--either in forms of communication (the Online Junkie excels at email communication, for example, but struggles with face-to-face interaction) or prioritizing tasks (the Firefighter rushes to deal with short-term issues or "emergencies," but has trouble directing long-term strategy for his or her organization).

There may not be a magic number of hours to devote to each managerial task, but learning to evenly distribute time to each responsibility may help you get more done--or at least feel better about the way you're spending your day.

Published on: Jan 17, 2013